On my worst days as a person with mental health issues, simple words and letters have stabbed me. The saying “the pen is a sword” took on a whole new meaning. I also had the hypersensitivity of a touch-me-not. Just like the plant, I anticipated that a slight friction (in my case, some interactions slightly pricklier than pure silk) was going to harm or destroy me.
I’ve become more immune to such encounters over time especially after an interaction with a colleague who noticed that I was slipping into the doldrums. Her simple two-worded advice was like a shot of COVID-19 vaccine: life-saving and necessary for many, I believe.
I’ve heard these two words often before, but indeed when applied at the highest dosage possible, I’ve found it to be transformational. On that day, when I had tears in my eyes, my colleague came over, made her hand into a gun and pointed to her temple. Staring deep into my eyes, she said emphatically “think positive”. The clichéd yet profound statement, said with conviction, was like a bullet penetrating and dissolving my toxic mind.
My BFF had also nudged me in a similar positive direction when she shared one of the tips she learnt from the book, ‘Super Thinking: Upgrade Your Reasoning and Make Better Decisions with Mental Models’. The authors say, “Never attribute to malice what can be more easily explained by carelessness.” In the past, I often had found myself upset, thinking people were out to hurt me on purpose.
How does all this work in real life?
– Eg. My colleague did not smile at or greet me when I saw him come in this morning.
Distorted thinking: He is upset with me.
Positive thinking: Maybe he’s preoccupied with something else. It’s not about me. It was just a little careless that he didn’t offer his usual greetings.
– My partner hasn’t replied my text after five hours.
Distorted thinking: She’s lost interest in me.
Positive thinking: Same thing. Maybe there’s a good reason for this. Work’s crazy and she has had low bandwidth, a family issue cropped up, she fell asleep and didn’t see her phone. The possibilities are endless.
– My boss is ranting about one of my colleagues who has made a lot of mistakes at work, like me.
Distorted thinking: He must be talking about me sarcastically.
Positive thinking: Maybe he just needs to rant about the other person. Maybe you’re doing better than you think. It’s probably healthier to take people at face value and not assume malicious intentions.
It’s all about challenging our thoughts to resist toxic perceptions of others.
I remember at a work retreat I once attended, we were each given a small stone with a word engraved on it. Mine said “Believe”. The lovely nun seated next to me said, “Believe in yourself, believe in others and believe in God.”
Father Richard Rohr, bestselling author and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey on her Super Soul Sunday series, that “Within each of us lie the true self and the false self”. The true self, he says, is what religion often calls the soul—your eternal essence. The false self is the persona you create for yourself. Father Richard believes we all have a need to manifest our true selves and, as a rule of thumb, taking offence is a red flag that your false self is at the fore.
When we give people the benefit of the doubt, believe in the good and potential of good in people including one’s self, and continuously sprinkle positivity over all frictions, we’ll often end up with another couple of words…
Positive thinking does tend to translate into better relationships, job prospects and other better outcomes like your physical health, too. Another kind colleague also said that it in all her 60 years of existence, when she’s seen someone in a bad situation, it’s always the people who look on the bright side on life who make it through, no matter what loss they suffer.
When you think positive with the highest dosage possible, you reach for the impossible. You suddenly believe. That un-gettable goal gets gettable. That dream job at Pixar can be a reality. That business you always wanted to start becomes achievable.
And soon, you’ll find yourself living an entirely different life – just by giving hyper-importance to two blessed, bland words.
Authored by: Eliza Ida Thomas
We thank our blog contributors and applaud their strength in finding the words to share their lived experience, not only as part of the personal recovery journey but to inspire and bring hope to others who might be facing mental health challenges.
Photo credits: freepik.com